“The Great Invisible”
Those of us who have loved the
Deep South, and have lived in it (this writer has lived in both South
Louisiana and in the Mississippi Delta) know what a tragedy it was when the
Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig blew up in the
Gulf of Mexico
in April of 2010.
“The Great Invisible” chronicles the event,
and its subsequent effect, with an obvious and understandable agenda:
the real victims are not only the 11 workers who
died on the rig that night, but all of those grieving folks affected by the
Director Margaret Brown has an eye
for the working people, the ones who quietly go about their jobs every day
with a minimum of pretentiousness and a maximum of easygoing competence.
We begin with a home video tour of a real,
working oil rig, taken by the chief mechanic.
There, we are able to see the control room, the
cramped quarters, the heavy machinery, and we think we catch a glimpse of the
kind of macho independence that perhaps contributed to the fiasco in the first
Yes, I know, we’re supposed to
be angry at the big, faceless corporations, especially British Petroleum, who
contracted out the daily operations, and then, stood by and did nothing while
the safety procedures were overlooked, and the personnel reduced, and the
warning signs ignored. And
yes, we all remember how BP at first stonewalled the media, then finally
admitted some culpability, and promised to help clean up the massive spill,
and to compensate those who suffered loss.
Ah, but making public assurances
is easy, especially for slick, media-savvy CEOs.
It’s the follow through that’s difficult.
Director Brown, predictably, had no trouble
locating some folks who feel that they’ve not been compensated enough, and
are still suffering from the trauma.
There’s the “roustabout” who was actually
flung away from the explosion and managed to find the life raft, describing
the horrible screaming all around him and the searing heat of the roaring
fire, and remembering those who didn’t make it, especially those who just
jumped from the burning platform into the dark chaotic deep, never to be seen
And yes, predictably, there is no
shortage of shrimpers who complain about the oil sludge still in the water.
And of course there are the bereaved families of
the deceased oil rig workers, who will readily argue that not enough is being
done about safety. And
there are plenty of people whose jobs were directly affected who claim they
weren’t adequately compensated.
But BP’s pre-emptive publicity ploy was to
appoint a kind of corporate Santa Claus who came around giving gifts to people
with damage claims, and then departing with a merry “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
But the $1000 or $1200 or $1500 the jobless
people reported receiving didn’t last very long.
And now, because of the waiver they had to sign
to take the money, they can’t sue for more.
They’re stuck with their traumatic memories,
and traumatized psyches.
Today, offshore oil drilling is
booming again in the
Gulf of Mexico
through the conversations of the oyster shuckers and the crab meat carvers,
precious seafood preparation jobs are available once again, but only the
nimble and able need apply.
As for the rest, well, there are always the
church food pantries. And
here’s where the real star of this show emerges:
Roosevelt, a local with such a thick dialect that
his conversation is close-captioned, but this man’s a saint.
He quietly cooks meals for the needy, and even
delivers the food to their rusted-out trailers and ramshackle abodes.
And he does all this without being smug,
patronizing, or judgmental.
to be among the righteous who say to the King, “Lord, when
did we see you...hungry and gave you food?”…And the King will answer them,
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25: 39-40)
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,